An open letter from a child of hippies

So, drug use. As a child of hippies, I saw a lot of it as a youngster. And I nearly turned into a republican.

The good news is that I eventually realized that it wasn’t the drug use I found disturbing, it was the accompanying irresponsibility. So I thought about it, and made some rules. As is typical, these rules tend to be more “don’t” then “do”. These have come in handy countless times, and ensured that myself, and my friends, have had great times. I hope they do the same for you.  Here they are.

  1. Know what you’re taking. Know the source, lab test it, know your dosage.
  2. Take drugs with people you know. At least two, preferably.
  3. Take drugs in a safe environment; somewhere you can move about or relax in without fear of accident, with clear exits, a reasonable number of people, and at least one responsible person who is sober, and who has agreed to keep an eye on you.
  4. One responsible sober person for every 5 people tripping.
  5. Stop, listen, feel. Be aware of how your body is responding. Talk yourself through the rough patches.
  6. Trust your gut.
  7. Secure your possessions before you dose. You will lose your purse, your wallet, and your clothes if you’re not prepared.
  8. I absolutely do not use drugs near or in front of children. I was a naturally empathic kid, and the contact highs I picked up scared the crap out of me, as did the unstable behavior of the adults entrusted with my care. (yup, scars there.)
  9. Have as much fun as possible! Figure out what you like.
  10. Learn your doses, favorite compounds and how they work, and comfortable frequencies.

General recommendations:  Start with the organic stuff. Stay away from the highly purified stuff. Take empathogens with good music. Stop taking anything you crave. Take care of your friends-all of you will occasionally have a bad trip. Don’t expect the cute little thing you brought with you to hold your hair, or deal with your shit. Your friends will. Don’t use new substances after major emotional events in your life. Do use substances you like to clear your head once you’ve chilled out. Have fun.


Bonnie Tinker

Yesterday I read Bonnie Tinker was dead. 


Bonnie was struck and killed by a mack truck, crossing the Virginia Tech campus, while attending a religious convention.

Her death shocks me.

I met Bonnie Tinker in the early ’90’s, at a hot, dusty Pride. Later we worked together at the Powell’s phone bank against Measure 13, and even later still, we sat together during the pre-Iraq war meetings of local peace activists.

I’d like to write about her life; her girlhood, her education, how she met her wife, what led her to a life of thankless activism and the care of others. I don’t know her well enough for that. It would be cliche of me to say that I wished I had known her better. We lived often parallel lives in the same city, but they touched infrequently. That was fine for us both.

Even so, her loss feels so huge.

For me, Bonnie was an ever-reliable voice of reason. She offered me water at that first Pride, and we talked about favorite sunscreen lotions. She struck me as kind, pragmatic, and cautious. I had no idea that she was such a prominent community member. At my first Measure 13 phone bank shift, she helped resolve an argument between other volunteers. Then she suggested we take a break and eat. When everyone else wanted to focus on politics, Bonnie would look at human need.

That became even more apparent during the anti-war demonstrations in advance of the invasion of Iraq. That multi-organizational, multi-faith group held together by a thread, and rarely a planning meeting finished without a skirmish.  Bonnie was often a target. The small group of men who vied for position of “leader”, or at worst “host” of those meetings were always looking for a way to establish themselves. Picking on the one out lesbian who came to the meetings regularly was something that few of the majority white, heterosexual, church and organization representatives seemed to object to.

Bonnie battled through. When the attacks were personal, she ignored them. When the integrity of Love Makes a Family was questioned, she defended it, every time. When someone made a good point, she loudly seconded them. In every meeting she attended, Bonnie made a difference to many.

I felt stronger, knowing that she was there. It wasn’t just me against a room. I knew that if I needed it, even though we weren’t friends, and we lived very different lives, Bonnie had my back.  

I think she made everyone she met feel like that.    

Like the reasonable woman she was, Bonnie eventually found the political cost of working with such a group too much, and retreated. She never fully disappeared, but her statement was clear.  I liked her better for that. Staying involved would have been the classic tactic of a minority organizer. Bonnie knew better.

I will miss her.

Queer life, and queer politics in Portland have changed since Bonnie first stepped up. Today we have institutionalized lobbying groups, a blogosphere, bars all over the city, and it almost feels safe to be recognizably GLBT in downtown during Pride week. Almost. And no farther North than Stark st. 
This year we had five reported gay-bashings or harassment downtown during Pride.

We still can’t get married, attend the church of our choice, work where we’re qualified, or live in large parts of our metro area. 

The shiny bumper stickers and expansive ad campaigns by those lobbying groups don’t seem to be working. Every once in a while, when our basic freedoms are attacked, those groups act as a hub and a gathering place for people to respond. Then they fade back into the world of politics.

Human need still exists. Bonnie saw that need. Love Makes a Family was an active community member from day one- doing everything from picnics to marches. They’ve connected families, worked in schools, and held support groups. To be fair, many people have shaped and sustained LMF.  But for me, Bonnie  was like a one-woman cavalry; just knowing she was there made me sleep better at night.

Bonnie is totally irreplaceable. 


I’d love to imagine that if everyone reading this who misses her were to honor Bonnie’s memory by working to make Portland a place for all of us, we could fill the void she has left.

We can’t. 

That silly, cheap question pops into my head: “What would Bonnie do?”. 

It’s an easy answer: She’d try, and give it her best.

HI speech

Ladies and Gentleman, Hostelers and Travelers,

When I heard that Hostelling International was a hundred years old, I was amazed. And that amazement took me on a journey-this time a mental one. And I had some questions….. Where had my first hostel experience taken place? Where was the first hostel built? How many hostels were in the US? How many hostels had I visited? How have hostels changed us?  What will they bring us in the next 100 years?

So, I put on my research hat, and set about finding out. Now, as we know, there are many wonderful hostels that are not affiliated with HI yet. My first hosteling experience was with one of these hostels. My Mother and I took a impromptu vacation to Victoria Canada when I was about 12. And as my Mother tells it, all of the 2 hotels with wheelchair access were either booked already, or  out of our budget. Luckily, a friend mentioned that the University booked it’s dorm in summer as a hostel, with breakfast included. And the dorm was equipped with several wheelchair friendly rooms! This was an early lesson in the magic of hostels for me; it combined easy wheelchair access with a fascinating mix of friendly people from around the world, and great food.

And it seems that my first hosteling experience closely mirrored the genesis of hosteling,  when German teacher, Richard Schirrmann took his class out for a trip on 26 August 1909. They were caught in a thunderstorm in the Bröl Valley, and for the first night of the storm, slept in a barn. However, the second day of the storm, the farmer asked them to move, ( I imagine a bored, rowdy group of boys was quite a handful in a barn)  and so they took shelter in a local school house, where Mr. Shirrmann had an idea, “Why not use school buildings as shelter for young hikers during the holiday?” And so hosteling was born. The next year, he wrote an essay proposing his idea, which was published in a Cologne newspaper, and within 3 years the first permanent hostel was open, at the old castle of Altena, in North Rhine, Westphalia, Germany. This castle was in disuse, though it had previously served as courthouse, prison, home for invalids, poorhouse, hospital, historical society, museum, and even as a quarry. It, like this hostel, was a historic landmark renovated to serve as a hostel, and is still open, though a few things have changed.

One of the things to change is that there are now more than 4000 hostels in the world,  roughly 190 of which are in the States. Hostels now offer wi-fi, wheelchair access, some have in-building bars, and others  have senior discounts. There are hostels in schools, castles, forts, national parks, boats, entire islands, former prisons, lighthouses, tropical rain forests,  in hillsides, and even in tree houses. There’s a word for “hostel” in nearly every language.

I sat down with a pen, a map, and a glass of sherry,

and calculated that I’ve stayed in 38 hostels in 14 countries. In the States, I’ve visited a hostel in Seattle, brought my own ramps to the hostel on Hawthorne, stayed in a hostel at the edge of a swamp in Orlando(which had warnings about making sure to keep the back door closed so gators wouldn’t wander in),

I’ve listened to the blues at the Lake Park Hostel in Austin with the resident cat on my lap, slept off a day of swimming and a night of dancing at a hostel South Beach,

and watched the seagulls from the old military fort in San Francisco.

For me, hostels offer a distinct advantage over staying in a hotel. I usually choose to travel alone. And as a disabled woman, that presents some challenges. I’m pretty self-sufficient, and very adventurous. But if I stay alone in a hotel, there is always a question of  “What if?” hanging in my mind. What if I fall? What if I drop my hair brush behind the dresser? What if I have a sudden urge to go salsa dancing in Helsinki, but I don’t know where there’s good music?  

Staying in a hostel puts my mind at ease, and serves as an introduction to people and cultures I simply don’t meet in any other way. And likewise, serves as introduction for others to what traveling with a wheelchair is like. I can’t tell you the number of times someone from my room has come up to me, and told me of a friend, or sister, who is disabled, and wants to travel. Usually the first thing they say, is “I didn’t even realize it was possible!”

And then they ask me questions like -“How are you treated?” “Is there a ramp on the train?” “Did you make your hostel reservation months in advance?”

We talk, and exchange emails, and sometimes, years later, I get an email from Mongolia, telling of  a sister in a wheelchair who just completed a trip around Germany, her first time out of her country. Or other times I hear that there’s now a ramp at the hostel in Gotenburg where I stayed 5 years before.

In many cultures, and in many countries, disability is hidden. There are no ramps, curb cuts, or enforceable anti-discrimination laws. My mere existence as a solo disabled American woman traveler is a complete violation of every norm, every expectation that some of my fellow hostelers and maybe hostel staff have.

It’s sort of infectious, really. The more people I meet, and who see how I manage, the more people see disability in a new way. And the more disabled people travel, the more that spreads.  So it’s pretty fun for me to hear that there is now a ramp in Gotenburg, because when I was there, there happened to be a Belarusian soccer team staying at the hostel, who offered to carry me up and down the 5 steep stairs every day.

I think I can safely say that hosteling has changed my life. I particularly love how my experiences have pushed my boundaries. A good example; when I was staying in a converted gymnasium in Copenhagen, there was a communal shower stall for girls. Now, I was pretty young, fiercely independent, and very American, so I decided to wear my bikini in the shower for modesty.  I transfered out of my wheelchair onto one of those molded resin chairs,  and was lathering up when these three Italian girls came over, and basically insisted on washing my hair for me.  There was really no arguing with them.

A public school education from Eugene really hadn’t prepared me in the etiquette of such a situation, so I adopted a rule that has served me well ever since: When in doubt, go with it.

And if that happened to me again today, I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash.  

Once, when I arrived in Budapest, I hadn’t made a reservation ahead, so I was wandering around, looking for the address I had of a supposedly wheelchair friendly hostel. I was quite lost, and didn’t speak a word of Magyar, and for some reason, the people I approached all ignored me, or hurried away. Finally I heard this gruff voice say “Are you American?” and I turned around. There was the most odd, disheveled  man there, and a scruffy little dog. The man was wearing clothes pieced together, sort of like a gypsy, or a pirate, and was probably about 50. He had piercings, and and a hat, and a very, very blue glass eye. His little dog was a mutt, and white and beige and about two feet long.  The man, it turned out, spoke perfect English. He had worked as a cab driver in Chicago, before as he put it, he became a drunk, and as we walked to my hostel he told me his life story. He had been a rebel, and a musician, and had gone off to live in America. He met a girl, got his papers, lived, as he said “As normal a life as  Norman Rockefeller”.

He lost the girl, then the job, then everything. We arrived at my hostel, and I asked about the bags he was carrying. One looked like it had a bunch of carrots, potatoes and meat in it. The other had a large can. “I’m cooking dinner for my little dog” he said, lifting the bag with the carrots sticking out. I asked what the can was. “Oh, that’s my dinner” he said. The manager of the hostel greeted him as an old friend, and then we said our goodbyes.

I soon realized that my attempts to communicate with Hungarians on the street, to ask directions, or where the subway was, were not going well. Every time I approached someone, they would either loudly ignore me, or make the kind of shooing motion reserved for moving chickens away. I was confused.

My hostel was run by a nice Tunisian Man who cheerfully told me that all Hungarians were crazy.

I tried speaking English. WHERE IS THE MUSEUM? More Shooing. I tried yelling. I AM AN AMERICAN. WHERE IS THE MUSEUM?? No luck.

Meanwhile, I was having a blast. There were spas, mud baths and turkish style baths, and caves, and ancient ruins to explore. Everything was perfect, except for the weird behavior of the locals, particularly women in market places. I found a friendly bookstore clerk who spoke English. “They think you’re a beggar” he told me with a shrug. You’re kidding, I said, looking down at my perfectly exfoliated, mud bathed, manicured hands, and new camera.

Yikes. So, with his help, I learned some Magyar. I translated “I’m from the States”, and “I’m a tourist”. No luck.  Finally, after about 5 days of living as an unusually contented social pariah, we broke the cultural code. “I don’t need your help” translated into Magyar was the magic phrase. All of a sudden, I discovered that a lot of Hungarians spoke a little English, and they were exceedingly nice. People invited me to dinner, and gave me flowers, and introduced me to their favorite restaurants.

I met other people with disabilities, and even managed to charm the gigantic, Cloris Leechman like masseuse at the local spa.  

Hosteling teaches us. In many countries, like Poland for example, hostels are even integrated into the educational system. Hosteling teaches us about new languages, and cultures, and it taught me how to pack light, how to keep my wheelchair and all my clothes and makeup from getting in other people’s way, how to ask if a hostel is wheelchair friendly-(don’t ask if it’s accessible, ask how many stairs there are) how to make life long friends in less than two days.

Hosteling promotes peace. Not the kind of world peace that every beauty contestant adamantly wishes for, but the kind of peace built on small kindnesses. Because when we stop, and share a meal with someone, or share a room, or even adventure with them, we can’t help but see them. Not their nationality, or their language, or their disability, just them. Another traveler.

Richard Shirrmann  entered World War One as a reservist after creating the hosteling movement. And  In December 1915 he was in a regiment holding a position on the Bernhardstein, one of the mountains of the Vosges, and separated from the French troops by a narrow no-man’s-land, which his account says was “strewn with shattered trees, the ground ploughed up by shellfire, a wilderness of earth, tree-roots and tattered uniforms.”    

“When the Christmas bells sounded in the villages of the Vosges behind the lines .. something fantastically unmilitary occurred. German and French troops spontaneously made peace and ceased hostilities; they visited each other through disused trench tunnels, and exchanged wine, cognac and cigarettes for Westphalian black bread, biscuits and ham. This suited them so well that many remained good friends even after Christmas was over.

Military discipline was soon restored, but Schirrmann pondered over the incident, and whether “thoughtful young people of all countries could be provided with suitable meeting places where they could get to know each other.”

Several years later he retired from teaching to focus entirely on the youth hostel movement, which he stayed with until eventually he ran afoul of the Nazi government.  After World War II, he worked on the rebuilding of the German association, for which he received the Federal Cross of Merit  in 1952. 

 I’m pretty sure that all of us who here who have stayed in a hostel can think of some small kindness that we gave or received that let us see our fellow hostelers differently. In doing my research, I discovered a story in Oliver Coburn’s book Youth Hostel Story,  that for me, answers Shirmann’s question.

 In 1944, British parachutists shelled a particularly lovely hostel in the Netherlands, which stood on a high sand dune overlooking the town and was being used by the Germans as an observation post; it was grievously damaged. But after the war was over, one of the parachute lads came back with the International Working Party, so that he could say to his friends in the Dutch Youth Hostel Movement:     “In 1944, we destroyed your hostel, we could do no other. Now we have come to restore it.”

So, we’ve made it to my last Question, What will hostels bring us in the next 100 years? Honestly, I have no idea. But I’m hoping for more of the same.

In 1944, British parachutists had shelled this lovely hostel, which stood on a
high sand dune overlooking the town and was being used by the Germans as
an observation post; it was grievously damaged. But after the war was over,
one of the parachute lads came back with the International Working Party, so
that he could say to his friends of the Dutch Youth Hostel Movement:
“In 1944, we destroyed your hostel, we could do no other. Now we have
come to restore it.”
Oliver Coburn, Youth Hostel 

mao ware?


China-based network: international infiltration

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A electronic spying operation based primarily in China has infiltrated government and private computers in 103 countries around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, The New York Times has reported.

Citing a report prepared by Canadian researchers and due to be issued this weekend, the paper said the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China.

However the researchers said they could not argue conclusively that the Chinese government was involved, according to the report.

The investigation by specialists based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto started when the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, asked them to examine its computers for signs of malicious software…….

Long Live The King

So, it’s MLK Day once again. It seems unfair to post my usual deprication, Callahan cartoon and all. After all, change has come. The new blue is black. I can’t think of anything less funny than our deeply trashed country picking herself off the floor and checking into the trusty 12-step program that is the Democratic Party tomorrow.

And what’s funny about our 44th President? He’s educated, attractive, well married and a responsible parent, more or less. He smokes, drinks, and listens to decent music. He’s set up a cabinet of the experienced, and he seems fairly aware of his own faults.

Honestly, my biggest concern is the lack of humor available. As a country, we’re hip ‘nuf to hire a black President, but not to laugh at him. (He’s a tall, nerdy, beak nosed, Kool smokin’, Motown listenin’, over oratin’ black man moving in to the White House for chrissake, come on people!) Our economy is circling the rim, we’re choking on our own fumes, we have no health care, and we’re caught between two military quagmires. Vasoline, anyone? Comedic relief, somebody?

I’m concerned that without humor, we lack clarity. Humor is often the only social permission which allows us to call a fish a fish. Or the monkey-headed speech-impaired moron a Republican. Four years of Politically Corrected anti-racism could render us a bunch of sightless moles, something we can ill afford.

So, I suggest a new MLK Day tradition. Reach out and make fun of someone….Without regard to the color of their skin but by the content of their character. See them for who they are; stereotypes, strengths, faults, and sillyness. Live the dream.

Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas tree sucks this year

2007 Christmas Tree

2007 Christmas Tree

2008 Christmas Tree

2008 Christmas Tree

I admit that using energy-efficient bulbs on our tree sounds good on paper. But I so don’t pay my taxes for a lightly phosphorescent Christmas tree. It glows green, but barely. In comparison with the lighted buildings around it, it looks like your Uncle Eddy after his fifth scotch on Christmas eve. And it wants a kiss on the cheek before you go to bed.

Can we please have a real tree next year? Puhleeeeeeeeze?